Review: Resurrection Man Vol. 2: A Matter of Death and Life trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's New 52 Resurrection Man initiative has been a remake that improved upon the original, but Resurrection Man Vol. 2: A Matter of Death and Life is a weaker follow-up to the first superlative volume. A crossover that gives Resurrection Man Mitch Shelley short shrift and a couple of instances where the book zigs when it might have zagged slows the book down, even as this final volume builds to an interesting conclusion.

[Review contains spoilers]

The dividing line between the first and second volumes of Resurrection Man is this book's introduction of Mitch's girl Friday Kim Rebecki. Rebecki is a private investigator with the power of psychometry, which means she can "read" things that she touches; employed to find Mitch, she discovers his innate goodness when they touch, almost immediately falls in love with him, and joins Shelley for the rest of his adventures. But I felt the writers were more enamored of Rebecki than I as the reader was; the "instant connection" between Shelley and Rebecki saves time, but it supersedes the building of any genuine chemistry that might make us care about Shelley and Rebecki's relationship.

Review: Grendel Omnibus Vol. 1: Hunter Rose trade paperback (Dark Horse)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

[Review by Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at '80s Marvel Rocks!]

After two months of Marvel reviews, it’s time to switch to an amazing creator-owned title. Matt Wagner created Grendel for the now-defunct Comico Comics in 1983; he later took his creation to Dark Horse after the failing Comico attempted to claim the title as one of its assets. The concept is still full of life thirty years later; Wagner will be writing and drawing a crossover with The Shadow later this year. I call Grendel a concept because there’s really not one central character. The “Grendel” name is given to a variety of main characters over centuries; it’s a dark force and possibly a demon from Hell if some of the stories are to be believed.

With all that said, the person most commonly known as “Grendel” is Hunter Rose, the original holder of the title. Grendel Omnibus Vol. 1: Hunter Rose collects Rose’s story in the way Wagner wants to tell it ... and as a result, the original story from 1983 isn’t collected here. Wagner has called it a rough draft and its events are portrayed here in a story called “Devil by the Deed," which you should skip if you’re unfamiliar with the material. Instead of a regular story, “Deed” is an illustrated plot summary told in the form of a biography of Hunter Rose; some of these fragments were used in previous Grendel stories and later assembled here.

DC Trade Solicitations for May 2014 - Damian: Son of Batman, Larfleeze, Starlin's Stormwatch, Soule's Swamp Thing, JH Williams's Batman, Showcase Presents the Great Disaster

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Again, I didn't think there was a lot that's notable in DC Comics's May 2014 trade paperback and collections solicitations, though there's some interesting comings and goings here -- Stormwatch and Batman: The Dark Knight bow out, while Charles Soule takes over Swamp Thing and Keith Giffen's Larfleeze gets a more complete collection than I might have expected. Let's take a look.

Batman – The Dark Knight Vol. 4: Clay HC

Inasmuch as I felt lukewarm about Gregg Hurwitz's first Dark Knight Scarecrow story, I'm inclined to give this one a chance since I feel I've read fewer Clayface origin stories over the years than I have Scarecrow stories. This hardcover collects the final issues of the series.

Damian: Son of Batman Deluxe Edition HC

I can't really argue with a deluxe collection of Andy Kubert's art, but I feel I'd have been more enthusiastic about this series at the height of Grant Morrison's Batman run, and maybe before Damian's death in Batman, Inc. Vol. 2. I still find that a little tawdry, and so a new series starring Damian feels like more of a tease than a rebirth.

Larfleeze Vol. 1: Revolt of the Orange Lanterns TP

For completists, the good news is that the first Larfleeze collection is solicited to include not only issues #1-5 of the series, but also the backup stories from Threshold. Between Sinestro, Larfleeze, Corps, New Guardians, Red Lanterns, and the Green Lantern book, I think DC's Green Lantern line is too franchised out for its own good, and I'd bet Larfleeze would be the first on the chopping block.

Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 4: League of Assassins TP

Collects issues #19-24 plus the first annual, which details Arsenal's history with Green Arrow.

Stormwatch Vol. 4: Reset TP

I didn't favor a reboot of the New 52 Stormwatch, and with characters like the Weird it seemed too much to me like Jim Starlin was doing his own thing (and some of the villains, it seemed, were hopelessly 1990s inspired); all of this made me hesitant to keep following Stormwatch for volume after volume. However, what turns out to be the final Stormwatch collection includes twelve issues, #19-30, and takes care of Starlin's run in one shot; given this, and Stormwatch's presence in Futures End, I'll probably stick around.

Superman – Action Comics Vol. 4: Hybrid HC

The solicitations says this hardcover collects Action Comics #19-24 and the backup from Superman Annual #2, though if I don't miss my guess I think it's the main story from the annual, tying in to "Psi War," and not the "World of Krypton" backup. As you know, Andy Diggle was supposed to take over Action Comics with the beginning of this trade, but Scott Lobdell and others ended up writing it instead.

This collection also includes the Superman/Wonder Woman story from Young Romance. At this point, the only story from Young Romance that hasn't been collected is the Aquaman story.

Swamp Thing Vol. 4: Seeder TP

Begins Charles Soule's run on Swamp Thing, and includes the Villains Month issue #23.1: Arcane.

Worlds’ Finest Vol. 3: Control Issues TP

I thought I had read that Paul Levitz was leaving Worlds' Finest, but in looking at this collection's contents, #13-18, I see Levitz is still on the title as of issue #19. The next trade crosses over with Batman/Superman.

Batman: Black and White Vol. 4 HC

Collects the 2013 Batman: Black and White six-issue miniseries.

• DC Comics Presents: The Demon – Driven Out #1

It really is enough to make you think DC is planning a new Demon series, with the collection of the four-issue Demon miniseries by Matt Wagner earlier this year, and now this DC Comics Presents edition of Joshua Dysart's six-issue "Driven Out" miniseries. Odd that this is DC Comics Presents and not just a collection, though maybe DC's hedging its bets by keeping the price down.

JLA Vol. 5 TP

As we discussed when this volume was first solicited, it includes JLA issues #47-60 and the originally-oversized JLA: Heaven's Ladder. These JLA paperbacks, you might know, don't correspond to the JLA hardcovers; this book collects the end of Mark Waid's run, though the beginning, "Tower of Babel," is found in the paperback JLA Vol. 4.

Showcase Presents: The Great Disaster Featuring the Atomic Knights TP

Some years back there were a couple of Showcase Presents volumes that were subsequently canceled because of rights issues, but we're now beginning to see them emerge; among them was this Showcase Presents: The Great Disaster Featuring the Atomic Knights. I had more interest in this at the time, circa Final Crisis, than I do now.

Tales of Batman: J.H. Williams III HC

We talked about this one earlier, too; if the contents hold up, it contains Batman #526 and #550, Legends of the Dark Knight #86-88, and the "Pulp Heroes" Annual #21, all written by Doug Moench; #667-669 by Grant Morrison; "Snow" from Legends of the Dark Knight #192-196 by Dan Curtis Johnson and Williams with art by Seth Fisher; Detective Comics #821, by Paul Dini, and Chase #7-8, which guest-starred Batman.

Those are my picks. What are you looking forward to reading this May?

Review: Batman: Li'l Gotham Vol. 1 trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Hard to believe, but for the past year there's still been a place where Robin Damian Wayne lives, Nightwing and Oracle -- yes, Oracle -- go out on dates, and Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn still pal around on crime sprees. On occasion, I've seen fans call for a digital-first series still set in DC Comics's pre-Flashpoint continuity. I wonder if they know that book was already out there, and it was Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs's Batman: Li'l Gotham.

[Review contains spoilers (though not Spoiler)]

The first thing to know about Li'l Gotham, whose first digital-to-print collection DC recently released, is that it's essentially an all-ages continuation of the Streets of Gotham series that Nguyen drew with Paul Dini. The stories are more comical and kid-friendly, but they include characters straight from Streets, including Mr. Zzz, the Carpenter, and most notably Colin, aka "Abuse." Nguyen and Fridolfs don't even introduce Colin, but rather take for granted that readers will know who this (rather obscure) character is, and refer directly back to events in Streets. The unspoken assumption being that Li'l Gotham readers will be Streets readers (or young readers will be reading the book with a Streets reader).

Review: Red Sonja Vol. 1: Queen of Plagues trade paperback (Dynamite Entertainment)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

I had never read a Red Sonja story before now, partially due to my lesser interest in swords and sorcery tales but to a greater extent because of the exploitative bent to the main character's chain mail bikini (why I avoided books like Witchblade and Fathom, too). Red Sonja Vol. 1: The Queen of Plagues, therefore, stood out to me as a curious oddity: still the buxom barbarian in chain mail on the cover, but written by Gail Simone, known for portraying strong and realistic female characters. How would these two seeming opposites reconcile?

Simone's Red Sonja will ultimately feel and sound very familiar to fans of her work -- especially to fans of Simone's Birds of Prey and Wonder Woman -- which went a long way for me in bridging the gap of unfamiliarity I had with the character. Simone makes an effort, I think, to acknowledge and honor Sonja's chain mail origins (drawn attractively but without gratuitousness by Walter Geovanni), but then also to move Sonja beyond these origins as the story progresses to become something greater than she might have originally seemed.

Review: Infinity hardcover (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

[Review by Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at '80s Marvel Rocks!]

Here’s a fun fact about Infinity: Nobody dies.

Okay, not really. The Builders kill countless trillions of people across the universe and Thanos, as always, contributes a good amount of fatalities between himself and his minions. But no main character dies in the way that previous crossovers killed someone off for the sake of drama, like the Wasp in Secret Invasion or Thor in Fear Itself. You’ll notice that neither of those deaths lasted longer than a few years. I thought they were setting up Manifold to be sacrificed, and Black Bolt comes close, but not even Thanos dies. This is a sharp and much-needed rejection of traditional comic book crossover tropes.

Review: Suicide Squad Vol. 3: Death is for Suckers trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Adam Glass finishes one of the more controversial starting runs of the New 52 with Suicide Squad Vol. 3: Death is for Suckers. Glass tells a twisty story in which the reader can never be sure who's going to die next, and moreover whom thought dead might return to the living; in this way, Glass's story has shades of John Ostrander's fan-favorite series, even if it never quite achieves that book's full nuance. Glass's Squad remains an amusing mix of irreverence and thoughtfulness, designed to keep the reader off guard -- just when you think the book has swung too far one way, it moves back in the other.

Though this volume doesn't share the "Death of the Family" titling and seems mostly removed from the Bat-universe, one of the most notable aspects is Glass's face-off (so to speak) between Harley Quinn and the newly-returned Joker. Glass is responsible for the first real interaction between Harley and the Joker in the New 52, and while his depiction of Harley may still not be to everyone's tastes, I thought Glass offered some interesting insights into the characters' dysfunctional relationship here.

Review: Superman: H'el on Earth hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

[Guest reviewer Nick Slicer blogs at The Culture Cast with Zack and Nick]

When I first learned of the H'el On Earth storyline, I was extremely excited. Not only was it going to be the first "Super-Crossover" of the New 52, but a new, lengthy adventure for the Man of Steel. Growing up with the Superman comics from the '90s, I love to find myself sitting down and becoming invested in a giant Superman epic. I was primed for Superman: H'el On Earth to accomplish this. Much to my satisfaction, it did.

[Review contains spoilers]

In H'el On Earth, we find Superman contending with Superboy and Supergirl as a mysterious new Krypotian, the titular H'el, appears on the scene. H'el has discovered a way to resurrect Krypton through the use of a time travel contraption; the only problem is it will destroy Earth in the process. Supergirl, restless since coming to Earth, devotes herself to H'el (though she's unaware of his plans for Earth). The story provides a ticking clock as Superman tries to thwart H'el while connecting with Superboy and reasoning with his cousin.

Review: Prelude to Infinity (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

[Review by Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at '80s Marvel Rocks!]

Despite the name and the main villain, the mega-crossover Infinity actually owes more to Maximum Security than Infinity Gauntlet. This is not a bad thing; I like that Jonathan Hickman and a cadre of Marvel’s best artists have taken up Kurt Busiek’s “universe-conquering human threat” arc. Nearly every ally the Avengers find in outer space has tried to take over Earth at least once. The fact that the Kree, Skrulls, Shi’ar, Brood, Annihilation Wave, and more all join under the leadership of Captain America proves just how powerful the Builder threat is. Thanos’ plotline is the lesser of the two, kicking in only after the Builders are finally taken care of.

Review: DC Universe Presents Vol. 2: Vandal Savage trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, February 10, 2014

DC Universe Presents Vol. 2: Vandal Savage feels more relevant than the first volume, and overall sharper writing makes it a better read. There's a lot of content here, though some will be reprints for DC Comics readers who play the field; also the illusion of relevancy doesn't necessarily promise relevancy itself, which may be DC Universe Presents's biggest disadvantage.

[Review contains spoilers]

The second volume of the New 52 anthology series includes DC Universe Presents #9-12 (James Robinson and Bernard Chang's three-part Vandal Savage story, plus a Kid Flash story by Fabian Nicieza) plus two related Kid Flash back-up stories from Teen Titans, and the DC Universe Presents #0 Zero Month issue. Five-and-a-piece issues is a small trade, relatively, despite that the multiple origin stories in the Zero Month issue might make the book feel longer. At the same time, all the Teen Titans material is also reprinted in Teen Titans Vol. 2: The Culling, and the Mr. Terrific short story from the zero issue is reprinted in Earth 2 Vol. 2: Tower of Fate, so there was a considerable part of the material that I, having read those two other trades, simply skipped.

Review: Earth 2 Vol. 2: The Tower of Fate hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, February 06, 2014

I know it's a different Earth. I know the personalities are wildly different. But people ... this book has Wesley Dodds on the page, whole and hearty. Who can refuse a book that brings back Wesley Dodds?

[Review contains spoilers]

James Robinson's Earth 2 Vol. 2: The Tower of Fate really only moves the Earth 2 story forward by inches. If, like me, you're simply agog at the new takes on Wesley Dobbs, Al Pratt, Lee Travis, Jason Wing, Red Tornado, and the rest, then the thin plot ought not bother you too much (except to make you eager for the next volume). If playing "spot the obscure DC Comics reference" isn't your thing, however, you shouldn't be watching Arrow you may find yourself wishing Robinson would pick up the pace a little (though unfortunately that would only hasten his departure from the series).

Review: Avengers Vol. 2: The Last White Event hardcover/paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

[Review by Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at '80s Marvel Rocks!]

Don’t buy the hardcover edition of Avengers Vol. 2: The Last White Event.

This has nothing to do with the quality of the story; I have some quibbles, but as I’ll explain, Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers has rightly become the core of Marvel’s endeavors to change for the better. Instead, I’m asking you to not buy the hardcover out of protest for Marvel’s current collections pricing structure. Asking $25 for five issues is just beyond the pale -- even more so when Avengers World charged the same for six! Comixology has the issues collected here for $19.95, and the trade paperback will be the same price when it comes out in April; it’s still a bit much, but at least it’s the appropriate cost considering the prices of the issues.

Review: Sword of Sorcery Vol. 1: Amethyst trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, February 03, 2014

Sword of Sorcery Vol. 1: Amethyst is a pleasant surprise, a book whose main story is quite good, and then as a bonus, whose backup stories are also impressive. I'm as much to blame as any other reader because I wasn't very interested in this series when it started, but now I'm bummed to know it was cancelled quick as that.

[Review contains spoilers]

Chalk it up to a combination of factors that turned me off of Amethyst originally: a general aversion to "sword and sorcery"-type books versus sci-fi and superheroes; that the other-dimensional setting suggested less interaction with the rest of the DC Universe; and that "Amethyst," as a concept, felt too much like a Rainbow Brite/Jem mash-up to me -- very pink, very 1980s (though I did like the Amethyst cartoon shorts that aired on DC Nation). So I was inclined to put Sword of Sorcery toward the bottom of my reading pile and only take it out to read before Amethyst's (really Princess Amaya's) appearance in the next Justice League Dark collection (fortunately I needed something to read in a jiff).